switch offThe Times

December 27 2013

Sonia Elks

Wind farm operators have been paid a record £30 million to switch off this year.
The National Grid’s huge bill for wind farmers to leave turbines idle has shot up from the £5 million paid out last year, according to figures released by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) charity.

It found that about 40 wind farms shared £2.4 million in “constraint payments” to switch off over one weekend in September alone.

A further £3.1 million was paid out to wind turbine operators during a windy weekend in August says the foundation, which compiled the information from official data.

John Constable of the REF said: “The scale and pricing of wind power constraints in 2013 clearly shows that the full system cost of wind power is much higher than the Government is willing to admit.”

He added: “At some point, the Government will have to face the fact that wind power is simply too expensive to provide more than a minor share of UK electricity.”

Peter Lilley, a Tory MP on the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, also expressed anger at the figures.

“Paying wind farm operators not to produce electricity adds insult to injury,” he told the Daily Mail.
“It’s an added problem that enthusiasts for wind farms tend to ignore and will increase proportionally the greater the number of wind turbines we subsidise by taking money from the pockets of poor people to subsidise rich landowners.”

A spokesman for the National Grid said that the payments were just one of a number of tools it uses to keep the
system balanced.

Though the cost of leaving wind farms idle has risen this year, in part due to the windy weather the country has experienced, the expense represented only about 10 per cent of all constraint payments in total, he said.
He added: “The number and relative value of constraint payments made to wind farms is small compared to overall constraint payments made to generators of all types.

“Wind constraint costs are a small part of our overall balancing costs and we are incentivised to operate the network as efficiently as possible.”

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